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Tourists turned away from Ceausescu seaside villa

By ALISON MUTLER

NEPTUN, Romania -- Several hundred tourists who booked to see Nicolae Ceausescu's grandiose seaside villa, one of the rarer attractions on the Black Sea coast, were turned back by officials reluctant to open the doors on the excesses of the former communist regime.

About 450 French, German and Norwegian vactioners, who recently signed up for the $10 visit with local travel agents, were furious that nonchalant officials -- 'communists' -- who had learned under the former regime, were still making life difficult, local media reported.

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As if to prove that old habits die hard, the next day 17 top government officials and opposition politicians were guests at the opulent villa, which is still owned by the government, the local Telegraf newspaper reported last week.

The white sand and turquoise sea have made Neptun, 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of the port of Constanta, the favorite summer haunt of well-heeled Romanians whose villas are dotted among the pine trees.

The Ceausescus, who furnished villas and hunting lodges all over the country in their gilded kitsch, spent a month every year in Neptun -- their favorite resort according to local residents.

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Only visiting dignitaries and senior politicians have seen the villa, until an intrepid journalist recently crawled through the undergrowth and dodged armed interior ministry troops to confirm that there are about 40 marble and gold encrusted rooms, with fountains and other distractions sprinkled about the place.

And although Ceausescu was executed days after being toppled in December 1989, the villa's private beach -- complete with marble lighthouse and only a stone's throw from the main resort -- is still fenced off and guarded.

However, the local official meant to put Neptun on vactioners' maps, denied tourists had been kept out so that senior politicians could relax.

'The tour hadn't been properly organized,' said Dumitru Filip 'You have to take precautions. Some tourist might get excited and hurl a bottle at the villa.'

Meanwhile only a handful of soldiers stand alongside the leafy road which leads to the cluster of luxury villas and the tourists have had to make do with the beach.

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